Talk about built-in irony: the class of tricky words known as “contronyms” can mean the opposite of what you think they mean.
At The New Yorker, Sarah Miller humorously learns why only positive book reviews might be a bad thing. “If St. Petersburg is the Little Engine That Could of city names, then the main character, Raskolnikov, is the Little Engine That Could of elderly pawnbroker murderers,” she writes in her review of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Saul Bellow met Jack Ludwig at Bard College in the fifties. The two became friends, and founded a magazine together, called The Noble Savage. Then, not long after the magazine began running, Ludwig started an affair with Bellow’s wife. Here’s the letter Bellow sent him when he found out. You could also read our own Emily St. John Mandel on Bellow’s novel The Bellarosa Connection.
“John Milton—poet, free speech advocate, civil servant, classics scholar—was arguably a forefather to Asimov, Bradbury, Delaney, and the rest. Their outlandish other worlds owe a debt to his visionary mode of storytelling; their romance—characters who go on quests, encounter adversaries at portals, channel the forces of light and dark—is his, too.” Over at Slate, Katy Waldman makes the argument for Milton as sci-fi author. Pair with our discussion of his epic Paradise Lost as part of this piece about difficult books.